The selection of a Labour candidate for mayor of the Greater Manchester region is under way. Elected mayors were part of the deal between George Osborne and the ten leaders of the Greater Manchester councils for devolution, despite the lack of any democratic mandate for the plan as a whole, and particularly the control of those devolved powers by a mayor. (An elected mayor was overwhelmingly rejected in a referendum in Manchester in 2012.)
The Labour procedures for selection of a candidate for the election in May 2017 have been equally top down. The National Executive has drawn up rules which excludes members who joined after 19 July 2015 from nomination meetings and a vote in the final ballot. It can hardly be coincidence that this excludes anyone who joined during or after the leadership election as part of the “Corbyn surge”. (The normal period of exclusion is six months.) Candidate Tony Lloyd has calculated that this will disenfranchise 8,000 people, 40% of the total membership.
There are three candidates standing in the selection, none of whom represent the “Corbynite” left of the party — and none of whom will inspire a sceptical electorate. Ivan Lewis, MP for Bury South, is the candidate of the right. Andy Burnham is the “Gi’s a job” candidate, whose website is full of vague aspirations but no commitments. Tony Lloyd is the Interim Mayor, previously Police and Crime Commissioner and before that a soft left MP for 30 years. He has been part of the Manchester Labour establishment. His platform is somewhat to the left of the others: he supports a Greater Manchester Living Wage, including imposition in public contracts, opposes academisation of schools and privatisation in the NHS. But his platform says nothing about how he'll fight the Tory cuts and is very vague about what he'll do with his powers over the NHS. However, given the inability of the serious left to field our own candidate, he has has won the support of the major unions and should be supported critically.
Looking beyond the election, the key issue will be ensuring the accountability of the mayor to the Party and the wider labour movement. There are barely any existing democratic party structures at regional level and even at a city level, where they do exist, they are moribund. If the left does not draw up plans for regional structures, fight for them to be implemented and actively fight for its positions within these structures, decisions will be taken by the mayor and ten council leaders (one Tory!) without any control by the Labour Party membership. This is not just of concern in Greater Manchester. What happens here is likely to become a template for other devolved administrations, currently under consideration in Merseyside and Yorkshire.